SILVER MEDAL: Shaunae Miller. (AP)
As of Friday, August 28, 2015
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
BEIJING, China — Although she was not at 100 per cent, Shaunae Miller regained her strength to produce a personal best for the silver medal behind American gold medallist Allyson Felix in the women’s 400 metre final at the 15th IAAF World Championships.
Her time: 49.67 seconds showed the intestinal fortitude that she brought to the highly anticipated showdown at the Bird’s Nest last night as she became just the third Bahamian to get on the podium in the women’s 400 metres at the IAAF World Championships.
Miller watched as Felix set a blistering pace in what could be described as the “perfect race” to pull away from the crack of the gun and was unchallenged the rest of the way where she ended up running a world leading time of 49.26 for the gold.
The 29-year-old Felix moved back up to the 400m for the first time this year since she won a silver at the 2011 championships in Daegu to add to her world crown. She is also the holder of three gold and one silver in the 200m at previous worlds.
Felix is also the reigning Olympic Games 200m champion and has also won a pair of silver medals in the 200m in a couple other games. It was the second biggest challenge for Felix, who fell short against Amantle Montsho from Botswana in Daegu. It was the same situation with Miller, but this time, Felix was not to be denied as she got the better end of the deal.
Despite the pain that she experienced through the previous two rounds from the injury she sustained when she was running the 200m in Monaco and she stopped running and walked to the finish line, Miller kept her composure and was determined to get on the podium.
The 21-year-old came back strong in the final 100m to move up from fourth coming off the curve. She tried desperately to make up the difference heading to the finish line, but Felix was a little too far gone for anybody to catch her.
“The race went well. It was as fast as I expected. All of the girls brought their A game. I was glad that I was a part of it and to compete with the best in the world,” Miller said.
Miller followed on the heels of national record holder Tonique Williams, the world champion in 2005 in Helsinki in 49.55 and Pauline Davis-Thompson, the silver medallist in Gothenburg in 1995 in 49.28, who would have made the podium in the championships.
The 2010 IAAF World Junior champion from Moncton and the 2011 IAAF World Youth champion from Lille couldn’t catch Felix, but in the process made sure that she didn’t allow the four Jamaicans to ruin her party.
Shericka Jackson did her personal best of 49.99 for the bronze, while their national champion Christine Day was fourth in her PB (personal best) of 50.14, Stephanie Ann McPherson did 50.42 for fifth and veteran Novlene Williams-Mills was sixth in a season’s best of 50.47.
While Phylis Francis of the United States could only mustre up a time of 50.51 for seventh, defending champion Christine Ohuruogu completed the field in the eighth and final spot in 50.63.
“It’s amazing. I guess I’m having a lot of fun right now in the sport and I still have a few more years to go, so I’m exciting a lot of things,” said Miller, who will now concentrate on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she has the option once again of doing the 200/400 double again, but maybe leaning more towards her specialty in the latter.
As to what seemed to be a rivalry brewing between herself and Felix, Miller said she will have to wait and see if the American, who moved up to the 400m this year after winning multiple medals in the 100 and 200m on the international stage, will decide to stick to the 400m. Like Miller, Felix had a chance to run in both the 200 and 400, but she selected the latter and a couple weeks after Miller did the same.
With both her parents, Shaun and Maybelene Miller, at the Bird’s Nest to cheer their daughter on, Miller said they will probably go out with her agents and one or two friends and enjoy a time of celebrations.
She also took the time to thank all of the Bahamian people who got up early out of their bed to watch the race.
Immediately following the race, Miller found her mother by going in the front row of the stands at the Bird’s Nest as they embraced, reflecting on her global medal outdoors at the senior level.
Two years ago in Sopot, Poland, Miller picked up the silver at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. Now all that is left for her to achieve is a medal at the Olympics. But for now, it’s celebration time for Miller, who earned a hefty $30,000 for her effort, less than half of the $60,000 that Felix got to pocket. Jackson picked up $20,000.
Her mom, Maybelene, was the first she greeted as she made her way into the front row of the stands near the finish line where they embraced.
“She told me to make sure that I was in the stands so when the race is over she can see me. So I had to be here for her,” said the elder Miller, who served as a team official for the BAAA at the championships.
In the mixed zone where Miller was interviewed by reporters, her father Shaun, who is an assistant coach on the team, said they had a game plan and they stuck to it.
“She went out there and she executed her race model,” said Miller, who originally started to coach his daughter in Nassau before she joined George Cleare and now Lance Brauman. “She went out there and she handled business for the Bahamas.”
Like his wife, Shaun also was in the stands at the Bird’s Nest watching from a distance.
“When I saw Felix went out hard, I was a little concerned. I was hoping that she didn’t get away from the race model,” he said. “So she stayed with it, she didn’t panic, she sat down and went with the model that the coaches discussed with her.”
In hindsight, Miller said it was a foregone conclusion that after she got injured at her last Grand Prix meet in Monaco in the 200m, that she was definitely going to run the 400m.
“We just was hoping that a blessing would come down and she would be able to run because we came very close to not running here,” he said. “Thank God that we did.”
Former national long jump record holder Shonel Ferguson, who worked as a broadcaster for the IAAF Radio, said she was involved in many conversations where the topic was Shaunae Miller and Allyson Felix in the 400m.
“There was talk of Christine Ohuruogu, who ends so strongly,” Ferguson said. “Usually think about strategy in races like the 800m and 1,500m and you see it as the Kenyans employ it all the time.
“This time, Allyson, I feel, ran the way she ran because of Shaunae. She knew that Shaunae is a fast, strong, relaxed closer. If you saw the men’s 400m, LaShawn Merritt really tightened up coming down the finish line. With Shaunae, she finished strong, but she doesn’t tighten up. So she had to go out strong and even though she did, Shaunae was still there at the end.”
All things considered, Ferguson said she’s in agreement with a lot of people that Miller could be one step higher on the podium next summer with the gold medal around her neck.